This October, my mother came to visit for ten days! She agreed to do a short interview for us about her impressions of Georgia. We travelled to Tbilisi and Batumi, and also toured Kakheti—we spent quite a bit of time in my host town, Gurjaani, and she visited some of my classes with me. It was her first time in Georgia, and the farthest she’d been from her home in the United States.
What impressions did you have before you came? What did you expect? What surprised you?
I didn’t expect people to be so well-dressed—especially the women. Also, I didn’t expect the kids to have school supplies and backpacks that were just like American kids’. They would fit right in in the U.S. if you transplanted them!
The contrasts on the roads surprised me: first, you’d see a guy with a Mercedes, then a guy with a little motorcycle and cart, next a man with his horse and cart, and finally a man walking his cow home. That was interesting. Also, the contrasts between old and modern buildings everywhere. The differences between the interiors and exteriors of houses surprised me, too, as well as how close they are together. I was surprised most people have no yard. I thought the wood floors and antique furniture were beautiful, though!
I also thought it would be colder there, since you’re in the mountains.
What did you see? Where did you go?
I want to come back and visit more places in Tbilisi. I enjoyed Old Tbilisi and the Georgian National Museum. I think you can get a feel for Georgian culture in Tbilisi more than you can get a feel for American culture in a major American city.
I liked Batumi—it was so different from the inland and eastern part of the country. I wish it had been warmer and not raining… I thought the night train was a good way to travel; otherwise, we wouldn’t have had time. Sighnaghi would be a fun place to vacation, and I think Westerners would be comfortable there. I’m glad we drove there; it was very pretty. I loved going to Kvelatsminda and the Bodbe Convent. We don’t have many ancient churches in our part of the country, nor do we have many Orthodox churches. I love that people have been using them for thousands of years.
And, I saw downtown Gurjaani and your school, of course.
What differences did you see between Georgia and the U.S.?
People still visit each other, and there’s a real sense of community and sharing. When I was a kid, it was like that—if someone came over when we were eating, we offered them food. Hospitality is a big thing here, people want to make you feel comfortable and at home, like part of their family.
Georgians use and recycle things that Americans would probably just throw away—they seem more satisfied with what they have, too. And, Georgians buy only what they need for the short term.
People lead a calm, quiet lifestyle, until they get on the road. Then, they’re in a hurry.
There are few street signs—it’s sort of like growing up in the rural [U.S.] Midwest. It made it hard to find things, unless you knew where you were going.
What’s your favorite Georgian food?
I love the raw foods here—cheese, vegetables, and so on—I really liked the fresh fruit. It was amazing to me that you could just pick and eat pomegranates and figs.
Is there anything you couldn’t get used to?
Trying to cross the street, and the escalators in the [Tbilisi] metro. Also, the gas lines are all exposed—because, I suppose, you can’t really bury them.
Is there anything you’d do differently?
If I came again, I would try to learn some of the language before I come. It’s frustrating to not be able to communicate, and I would like to be able to talk more with people.
Any advice for people who want to visit Georgia?
Learn some basic Georgian, like “where’s the toilet?”, how to count, the money system. Bring walking shoes that are good for rough terrain, and watch where your feet are going, even in town. Go with an open mind, and most importantly, be prepared to eat a lot.
Would you come back?
Yes, I would love to come again!
Thanks so much, Mummy!